The Chinese adventurism in its neighbouring areas has increased with alarming alacrity in the last couple of years. The ostensible reason being given by the Communist Party of China (CPC) is that they are only taking those areas which are their own and which have not been part of it only due to historical wrong-doing. But these actions are perceived by its neighbours like India, Taiwan, Mongolia, Russia and others, who are also the aggrieved parties, as unilateral moves not only meant to increase China’s own land area by changing the hitherto well accepted boundaries but also as a signal to the United States of America about China stamping its authority in the region.
President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, has recently exhorted People’s Liberation Army to remain on high alert “any second” for military confrontation. The Galwan crisis, as a result of China’s unilateral effort to change the status quo at the LAC, and the subsequent long-drawn stand-off has brought forth at least one point – Do not trust the Chinese! India has long neglected the fact that China is its enemy no. 1. The continued aversion to discuss this fact openly for years and preparing self accordingly have resulted in the huge military and economic gap between the two countries. Further, China is today amongst the few countries with whom India has a massive balance of trade deficit tilted in the former’s favour. What is worse is that this same ‘extra’ money is being used to fund activities against India – be it using the ever-ready- to- serve Pakistan against India, CPEC going through parts of India’s union territories of J&K and Ladakh regions, currently under illegal occupation of Pakistan, as part of China’s belt-n-road initiative, voting against India’s interests in the United Nations whether it is by putting obstacles to thwart India’s entry into the Security Council as one of its permanent members or vetoing sanctions against globally acknowledged dangerous terrorists like Masood Azhar till it could, amongst others.
Now what India needs to do is to have a multi-pronged approach, careful planning & thoughtful preparation if it wants to tackle a formidable antagonist like China. To start with, India needs to first and foremost accept that China is an adversary and a difficult one at that. There is an immediate need to bring the entire country to think alike on this issue internally. Every political party, irrespective of its ideology and belief, must join hands with the Government in ensuring one view-point from the entire country going across to the world, including China. Currently, diverse thinking amongst political parties, in line with their different social and political vision, has meant multiple interpretations to Chinese aggression with some even saying that this attack is more perceived than actual! This has to stop immediately.
Secondly, we must work towards ensuring a more balanced trade with China so as to shut all extra leverage to the latter. Currently, the estimated deficit is around USD 48.66 billion which is a humongous gap. This needs to be plugged in at the earliest as this money is being used to fund activities against India.
Thirdly, we need to make friends with all of China’s immediate neighbours as well as its major opponents like the United States of America and Japan. A step in the right direction has already been made in the form of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) with three other democracies like the United States of America, Japan & Australia joining India to lessen Chinese muscle flexing in the Indo-Pacific. India must also wean away China’s allies or even mute and reluctant supporters like Nepal and Bangladesh by making them understand that they stand to gain nothing in the long run and might even come under a debt-trap, initially coined as “debt-trap diplomacy” by Indian author and geostrategist Brahma Chellaney to prove such investments have ulterior motives from which there might be no escape. Already countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Maldives, Indonesia and others are suffering for accepting Chinese government largesse to tide over their economic crises. Pakistan, a major China supporter, has become a hapless victim of its own mindless endeavours which were more to show India in bad light than to gain for self.
Another very important aspect of modern war-games is proxy-wars. Today every power, be it major or minor, avoids direct military confrontations. This is particularly so amongst nuclear-armed nations. Hence, recourse to proxies to continue causing irritation to the enemy without any direct armed interventions. India needs to beat China at its own game by using this method mastered by the Communist Party of China. We need to take advantage of a COVID-battered image of China which is looked at as the villain whose virus caused the ruin of nations and their populace. Major American and European companies who had set up shops in China need to be lured away into our territory with better economic bargains and India’s USP – abundantly available cheap and qualified workforce. Further, international platforms like the United Nations must be better used to make the world realize the dangers of China’s aggressive foreign policy towards its neighbours in particular and other countries in general, including challenging even the United States of America.
Lastly and most importantly, there can be no substitute for a powerful defence force. Weaker nations have never got away with anything, certainly not in a hostile world. India needs to develop greater defence muscles and there is no two-way about this. We have seen over the years how big and mighty powers of the world with superior defence muscle have called the shots in the affairs of the world. India must realize this and bolster its defence, be it army, air force or navy, even if at times it may seem that this is being done at the cost of more important things like poverty alleviation and education. With a strong defence to back it, India will only then have the much needed ammunition to speak the language of the strong when confronted by its adversaries.
China needs to be confronted. China needs to be put on the back-foot. China needs to be spoken to in the language its masters (read leaders of the CPC) understand. And the best way to do so is to prepare oneself. This may seem to be an arduous task to accomplish particularly when the adversary can come till your doorsteps like recently. I have good reasons to believe that though the recent situation was ably contained through channels of politico-military diplomacy which resulted in the starting of disengagement process of the two armies, but to thwart such possibilities in the future there is no shying away from the fact that the above mentioned points are thoroughly looked into on an immediate basis and action initiated accordingly.